#tuesdayuseitinasentence: That tissue paper life

Brightly coloured handbag

Image: Pixabay

Catherine knew she was lucky the day she married David.

True, there had been little passion between them, there time in the bedroom the definition of propriety – lights off, socks on, do your duty and think of England.

But there were other benefits to being Mrs David Campion that added zest. The flat in Kensington for one and the detached house on Sandbanks, within earshot of the surf and its own beach. She’d loved jaunts to the continent in the Aston – oysters and Bollinger and trips to Cannes for the festival.

Now she stood on her Mother’s coconut matting, smelling boiled cabbage and liver, her Gucci luggage and the clothes on her back all that was left of that tissue paper life.

Mum appeared from the front room, arms crossed over her sagging chest. ‘You know what I say, our Cath?’

‘Catherine.’

A steely eye fixed her. ‘Cath. If you’re going to squeeze oranges, you’ve got to expect pips. Kettle’s on.’

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Written in response to My Loving Wife’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. See the word, use it in a post. Brought to you today by the word ZEST

Friday Fictioneers: Cyphers missing a key

PHOTO PROMPT © Kent Bonham

PHOTO PROMPT © Kent Bonham

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He told me electricity runs through garden gates and doorways – that was why he stopped at each, hands contorting into intricate loops and angles. Though he wouldn’t say why those shapes, those uncomfortable forms.

Power rippled through the walls of his tiny flat too, humming, buzzing, whistling  – making him batter the plaster with his palms … His head with his fists.

His drawings – black ink scored into white paper – were diagrams, he said: circuit boards, wire maps, technical instruments. Though he wouldn’t tell me what they did.

The drawings survive him now. Cyphers missing a key, they remain locked.

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Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioneers. See the lovely photo, write 100 words of wonderfulness around it. See full conditions of play here.

Moral Mondays: An ocean wide and dangerous.

Old luggage

Image: Pixabay

 

He travelled in steerage, though his coat was clean, cuffs neatly turned. Amid strings of laundry, the stench of brine and fights over brandy and women, he sat oblivious, reading Byron, Keats, Donne, spectacles perched on the bridge of a nose sharp as a puffin’s beak.

Timidly, he shared an abraded image – a younger man, also neat, also dark, handsomer than my companion. The handsome man had travelled for his fortune but the Klondike had swallowed him, leaving nothing behind but his brother’s memories.

The ocean may be wide and dangerous – but it seems blood is thicker.

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Written in response to Nortina’s Moral Mondays and what a cracker this week! It had me winging my way across the Atlantic to Ellis Island, following a shy man on the quest for a loved one.

To join the fun, be inspired by the week’s moral and write a 100 word story. Full rules here.

 

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Friday Fictioners: Mocking the forgotten dead

Jhardy

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

Shutters make the windows turn a blind eye – always a blind eye. A breeze blows the limbs of skeletal trees, bony twigs ticking a non-rhythm. Gates hold tufted grass and last year’s crisply fallen leaves prisoner.

A Death’s Head moth – woken early by a fragile burst of sun – batters his powdery wings against the bars. Once, twice, he bounces against the metal then away, flitting over the condemned cells, the exercise yard – the long drop – his careless freedom mocking the forgotten dead.

The breeze steals away to brighter places and leaves the building to its past.

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Saw this lovely photo prompt (originally from Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioners) on Ga H Learner’s blog and had to join in. Two pic prompts in one day? What am I like?

See the full rules here.

 

 

 

#tuesdayuseitinasentence: Close your eyes darlin’ boy

Shotgun cartridges

Image: Pixabay

 

A waft of cigarette smoke tells me Dan’s here. He smokes Park Drive – no filters – old man’s fags, though no one would tell him.

‘Where you been?’ asks Pete. He’s been shuffling on the spot for the last half hour, kicking up the dirt where the grass used to grow when people still cared about making this place nice. Years ago.

Dan lights a fresh Park Drive. ‘Mind your own,’ he says, crushing out the old fag with a twist of his boot. ‘Ready for this?’ He looks from Pete to Si to me and we just nod, though I want to be home watching the match with my dad.

We show what we’ve brought – a cricket bat: a length of pipe: a table leg.

Dan smiles, pushing back his coat.

‘Jeez.’

‘Christ.’

‘God, Dan.’

Hidden in the folds of wool are short metal poles attached to a wooden stock. Bile rises, burning my throat. ‘Dan …’ I can’t say any more, and I need to pee so bad it hurts.

‘Let’s go,’ he says.

***

And there’s blood all over me, though I’m not sure whose and it’s sticky and I think of my bed and my mum and she’s laying a cool hand on my head, saying ‘Hush. Close your eyes darlin’ boy’.

And I do and I sleep.

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Written in response to My Loving Wife’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence prompt. Hear the word, use it in a sentence – or many. Today’s word is WAFT. For the rules, go here.

FFftPP:Close the Circle

ocean

https://pixabay.com/en/ocean-sky-sea-horizon-outdoor-316752/

She heard voices beneath the crash of the waves, whispers in the hiss of popping foam and spray. She’d make me listen, hoping to see the spark of recognition in my eyes, and turn away disappointed when they stayed dark.

Nervous of the answer, I’d ask what she heard.

‘Close the circle,’ was all she said, face aglow as if a ball of buttercups were pressed to her chin.

My instinct was to smother her words – hasten the oncoming silence – but my hands were cowards, cradled in the nest of my lap.

When they found her, she was all circles – a halo of bladderwrack wreathed around her throat: full moon eyes fixed on the sky.

Spine curled like an ammonite, she’d returned to the sea.

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Written for Roger Shipp’s FFftPP. See the pic, include or allude to the quote and all in 200 words or less. Good fun – do join in.

TLT: Just as we remember

 

TLT week six - people at Tate Modern

Image: Samuel Zeller, Unsplash

***

The screens flickered if you glimpsed one out the corner of your eye, and beneath the hubbub of conversation and the ting of teaspoons stirring over-priced cappuccinos, she’d heard the buzz of resistors, the whirr of cooling fans – though the 3D images were pretty realistic.

‘So, Dad,’ she said, head bent over the dessert menu, ‘is that what London really looked like?’

He stared over the recreated metropolis, at the dove grey dome of St Paul’s and whispered, ‘Just  as I remember.’

***

Written in response to Sonya at Only 100 Words’ Three Line Tales prompt. See the photo and join the fun.

The Queen of Rotten Row: Part Two

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Image: Pixabay

 

On Daisy’s thirteenth birthday, Queenie made an announcement.

‘You’re too big to share a bed with me anymore. Besides I can’t be doing with the rubbish you bring in. Cluttering my dressing table with feathers and snail shells and a quarry’s worth of stones.’

Under Queenie’s direction, Daisy’s brothers built two extra rooms on the back of number five Railway Cottages with soot-stained bricks they’d taken from the line after a signal box had been demolished by a runaway coal truck, and old sleepers instead of proper rafters. It meant Daisy’s new bedroom smelled of oil and smoke even before she’d lit her first fire. She’d expected her mother to be the one to move, but Queenie declared the room too close to the kitchen. She didn’t want her new chenille throw – the colour of port wine – to smell of liver and onions. Daisy didn’t mind the smell, or that the walls leaned outwards or that a dropped bobbin would roll to the same corner each time. At least she didn’t get into trouble for collecting pine cones anymore.

At that time, her little brother Barty and all five older brothers, Sidney, Albert, Cedric and the twins, George and William still slept head to toe in two beds in the middle bedroom. It seemed an alien space to Daisy, stuffed with shirt collars and long johns and a peculiar, earthy smell that made her hold her nose as she passed the door. Sometimes she wondered if the stench of men would drift along the landing and choke her as she slept. From her older brothers she learned words that Queenie didn’t think a woman should use. Every evening as she undressed for bed, Daisy would practice the words, savouring how they distorted her mouth into unfamiliar shapes.

One of Daisy’s jobs was to dust the photograph of her father that hung above the sideboard in the parlour. He’d been station manager at Barnard’s Junction for thirty years, had won commendations for his diligence and conduct and he had a grey handlebar moustache and a beard that cut a neat ‘V’ shape over his uniform. She’d learned all of this from the photograph and a clipping from the local newspaper trapped along with it under the glass – Britain’s finest railwayman dies at his post.

‘That’s all you need to know,’ Queenie always said.

Daisy only remembered his absence – if he wasn’t working he was in the Public Bar at the Railways Arms. He resembled the sailors who gathered by the dockside to smoke and pass around bottles that smelled of Christmas pudding. In her dreams he walked unsteadily, as if on board a storm-tossed ship – in the morning, Daisy always woke feeling sea-sick.

Queenie was the hub of Rotten Row. If a wife received a beating for singeing the gravy or a husband lost his wages on a nag that fell at the third, then it was Queenie who spread the news faster than a man could shout it. When Mrs Cooper put a dent in the kitchen wall with a fire iron because Mr Cooper moved quicker than he had for the previous twenty years, it was Queenie who turned up on their doorstep, telling Mrs Cooper to either get used her husband seeing the barmaid from the Bull’s Head, or get a better aim.

Every day Queenie would stand by the front door, arms crossed and if Daisy was scrubbing the hall floor or sweeping the stair carpet, she would be close enough to Queenie’s look-out post for snatches of conversation to float over the clouds of carbolic and dust.

‘Morning, Mrs Critchlow.’

‘Morning, Sarah. How’s your mother keeping?’ After a pause and the sound of retreating footsteps Queenie would call behind her ‘Says her mother’s doing well, but I saw her yesterday when the fish man came round. Yellow as a buttercup, she was. I give her a week.’

Soon another neighbour would walk by.

‘Morning Ida, you’re looking bonny, love.’

‘Ooh, thank you, Mrs Critchlow.’

Daisy listened for the click of retreating heels then,

‘Should’ve seen her, Daisy. Got another new hat, big as a chamber pot. And the stuff on it! She’s got more fruit on her than Bury market. You watch, she’ll be fat as a sow and waddling down the aisle before she’s come of age.’

***

Find Part One here

 

 

Micro Bookends: Sleeping Beauty

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Sleeping Beauty

Under the leer of a new moon, inky slithers melt into life.

A mermaid licks salt-crusted lips, flicks her scales and dives, breaking through the waves of skin that roll across your chest.

The rose unfurls its petals, nips at flightless doves, thorns snatching at banners declaring ‘Stella’, ‘Gloria’ ‒ ‘Mum’.

You wanted ‘ink’ ‒ to be a man. Now the pictures that smother your skin smother you.
They weave and warp to form a tattoo where you never felt the sting before – your throat.

You dream of the needle, of the sea, of Sleeping Beauty cradled in her bramble nest. You stir, gasp, swallow.

Ink is your final breath-taker.


Another day, another photo of a semi-naked, heavily tattooed man on my blog. Ah, well, such is the way of the world.

This was my second entry to last week’s Micro Bookends challenge – you know, Undertaker, man with big, scary needle – and parp-parp-parp-parp-parp-parp! (How do you do a decent trumpet blast in words?) …

My Sleeping Beauty WON! Winner! Winner! Winner! Hang out the damn flags!

I was very surprised and totally delighted that my third attempt at the competition was succesful, especially as I’d read the other submissions – these folks are just too good. Thanks to David Borrowdale who runs Micro Bookends and to Jessica Franken last week’s judge and worthy former-winner.

If you’d like to read my author page on the site (and who wouldn’t – it’s very good) then click here.

And I shall see you anon 🙂

Found

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The girl with the watery eyes takes me by the arm and her mouth’s smiling, but she still looks sad. She always looks sad. I wonder if there’s something wrong with her.

She leads me into the room with all the chairs in, the one with the big window. Some of the old people sit in there to stare out at the garden, though there’s nothing to see but mud and twigs. It’s raining. It always rains.

I try to explain to the girl with watery eyes that it must be past my bedtime, that I’d better go home to my Mam, but she says I’ve only just had my breakfast. I try to tell her she’s got it wrong, but she won’t listen so I give up. I don’t want to upset her- she smells so nice.

The girl wants me to sit down, but I don’t like the chair she puts me in because I’ve seen one of the old men sitting in it. It’s the man who always has his hand in his trouser pocket. He makes me feel itchy and anyway, he smells like dirty knickers, so when the girl leaves the room, I move to another chair- the one with the big orange flowers on the cushion.

Someone coughs and I’m worried it’s the girl that smells of mince, but it’s another young woman. She’s pretty in an untidy way, blond hair falling from a clip on top of her head. She smiles at me and I smile back and for a minute, we’re just smiling at each other and I’m not really sure why.

‘Hello,’ she says.

‘Hello,’ I say. ‘Have you come to see one of the old people?’

She smiles and nods. She has some bags with her, big blue ones with long handles made of a sort of shiny fabric. The bags are open at the top and lengths of cloth spill from them- there’s pink and a peacock blue and something the colour of peas. I like the colours and the shimmery fabric. I want to feel them, but know it would be rude to do it without asking.

‘What have you got there?’ I say, my fingers twitch wanting to touch.

The untidy, pretty girl’s smile widens. ‘Scarves. Would you like to take a look?’

And she jumps up and begins to lay them over the arm of my chair, the colours flowing and overlapping, so that you can see one through another. Pea mixes with the pink and there’s one with butterflies- a pale ash ground with magenta wings- and as she pulls it from the bag and the wings curl and flutter above my head I can’t help but giggle.

At first I’m too shy to touch. The girl pulls out more and more scarves- like a magician with a top hat- and her cheeks flush and all of the hair tumbles from the clip so it hangs round her face all straggly, but still pretty. She takes off her coat and throws it on her chair and she starts on the second bag. She kneels on the floor and starts to lay the slithering cloths on the carpet and over her coat, and it’s all so beautiful.

‘Captured rainbows,’ I say and she smiles wider than ever.

She looks so happy, I’m sure she won’t mind if I hold just one. It’s a blue-green that makes me think of ducks. I run a finger over its length. It’s soft and slippy and the cloth makes little rasping noises as it slides over itself. I curl my fingers around it, scrunch it in my hand and it’s so fine it fits in my palm.

And then.

I smell the sea, taste the salt, feel the wet sand sloshing between my toes. From one hand hangs my sandals, and the wind tugs at my scarf, the teal- coloured one that Simon bought me for my birthday. I realise my other hand isn’t free by my side, but swaying with a rhythm that isn’t mine. I look up. I see a shirt, crumpled as always, and a blond head, higher than mine so I have to lean up to kiss the cheek. It’s his hand I’m holding, that swings me back and forth, that pulls me out of step, then slips back into it. The hairs are golden on bronze skin and I’m sure I’ve never seen a more beautiful man.

‘Simon,’ I whisper, but the wind snatches the sound away.

‘That’s right, Auntie.’

I’m in the room with the chairs. The sand has gone from under my feet and the only smell is air freshener and boiled veg. But the smiling girl is still here. She’s draped scarves round her neck, like boas. Her hand is on mine.

‘You look pretty today, Suzy,’ I say, ‘I like what you’ve done with your hair.’

She squeezes my hand again.


Day Thirteen: Serially Found

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

This is a second installment, a continuation of Lost, Day Four’s post. It’s about the same character, in the same setting. A little sad and a little hopeful.